Crew Advice

Visas & Cruising Permits

This article and advice was created by Debora Radtke who is an excellent resource for yachts / captains / crew coming to the USA with any questions regarding visas, cruising permits,  entry and leaving procedures:

Capt. Debora Radtke

·       Getting a B1B2, what is needed, what embassies to avoid.  Recently the main embassies are London, Paris, Madrid, Nassau have been the ones to avoid.

·       Entering USA on a yacht with a B1B2:  that is the best visa whether you are on commercial or private.  Many crew are being issued C1Ds which is not proper for a privately registered vessel.

·       Entering the USA via plane, employed on a yacht in the USA.  B1 or if you are coming in as relief or to start a job and will be here less than 90 days an ESTA WB for business, you would also be able to go back and forth to the Bahamas within that 90 days on the ESTA.  This is an option for Captains and officers on rotations.

·       Entering the USA via plane, employed but the yacht is not here yet (I.E. Crossing). B1

·       Entering the USA with a B1B2 and unemployed - what to say when prompted.  You can come on vacation B2 or come for classes and  investigate the industry and learn about job opportunites while here,  but you cannot be hired while in the US.  Proper protocol is to leave the country get the employment contract signed and return to join the vessel.  

·       For all cases above what paperwork and evidence of home ties to have on you, and what not to have.  Anything that proves strong ties to home.  Car registry, address abroad, titles bank accounts.  Pictures of family abroad.

·       Can immigration legally look through your personal phone and Facebook account / emails etc... CBPs job is twofold – protect our borders, and protect commerce in the US. Protecting our borders if first on that list.  So yes if they feel someone is not being honest with them they can look at their phone and google the person. Remember: Social Media is not your friend. LIMIT YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PROFILE.    Being allowed into the US as a non-citizen is a privilege not a right.  Just like any other country.

ATTITUDE ATTITUDE ATTITUDE: Be honest and confident but not arrogant.

 For visa application appointments we advise:

1.     Apply for a C1/D and a B1/B2 the reason for this is that this is standard in the airline industry where flight crews frequently cross over between commercial and private aircraft.  As professional mariners (I assume all crew have seamens books) this would also be a common occurrence.  It costs a little more, but helps defuse the issue of the vessel being private/commercial depending on location.

2.     Bring strong evidence of ties to home country, bank accounts, titles, family ties.  Department of States direction is to assume that all people applying for visas intend to emigrate permanently to the US.

3.     Ships papers and employment contracts. Quote chapter 9 of Foreign Affairs Manual: 

a.     b. (U) To qualify for D status, crewmen must intend to depart from the United States with the vessel on which they arrived or some other vessel or conveyance within 29 days at any one time. In order to affect a departure in terms of the INA, a vessel must sail from the United States destined to a foreign port or place; travel to international waters is insufficient for the purpose of departure. An alien on board a vessel which sails to sea and returns without effecting a departure (i.e., without entering or clearing at a foreign port), and whose itinerary is thus coastwise in nature, remains in the United States subject to the 29-day limitation. 

b.      (2) (U) Per 9 FAM 402.2-5(C)(5), crewmen of a private yacht  who are able to establish that they have a residence abroad which they do not intend to abandon may be able to qualify for a B-1 visa provided that the yacht is to sail out of a foreign home port and will be cruising in U.S. waters for more than 29 days. 

4.     If you need a letter from us as your US agent we can supply that.

5.     Be upfront and acknowledge that if they google the vessel it may show up for charter in the Med, be prepared with the appropriate answer.  Due to its being foreign built and foreign owned it cannot charter in the US and will be strictly for the private use of the owner. Or if the change is due to a change in ownership etc.

6.     Attitude can be everything.  Be relaxed and confident, but not arrogant. 

For Cruising licenses. They now have a standardized application process in our 3 ports.  They will issue limited cruising licenses based on an itinerary if the vessel charters elsewhere.  PEV still proves to be the hardest, but when I have requested the supervisor to look at it and explain the situation we have gotten them.  They will also issue them for bareboat charters but they have to see an executed charter agreement.  This is another situation where having an agent helps because we have a relationship with the officers and they know we know the rules.

Also remember it is not necessary to have a cruising license to be in the US.  If you are coming in for a yard period you do not need one.  You do need to clear into the port where the work is being done.  You will deposit your COR with customs and get a receipt for it.  You are still free to do sea-trials as long as you stay within the boundaries of the county.  i.e. you cant cruise down to Miami from Fort Lauderdale.

Several countries like Malta are not eligible for cruising licenses and in that case they need to clear in and out of each port they enter.  Just like they have to going from SXM to St. Barts.

I will be at Monaco putting out the welcome mat, and also in Antibes Oct 11,12 for an event with ACREW talking about what you need to come to the US.  

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